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:-- '"'"By 

(Acharya of Christa Se<va Sangha.) 


15 Tufton Street, Westminster, S.W. 1. 

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Introduction ... ... ... ... ... vii. 

Prologue 1 


I. Why Christa Seva Sangha was started 9 

II. The History of Christa Seva Sangha 18 

III. The Increase ... ... ... ... 34 

IV. Christa Seva Sangha to-day ... ... 42 

Epilogue 56 

Appendix 60 



A group of the Brothers, with a guest 

on the extreme left ... ... Frontispiece 


In the Court where the Brothers live ... 16 

The Refectory 17 

The Chapel 32 

A group of Students at the C.S.S. Hostel 33 



This short account of Christa Seva Sangha has 
been written at the special request of the S.P.G. 
We hesitated much about acceding to this request, 
since we are most anxious to avoid the fatal snare 
of serf-advertisement. But after mature thought we 
agreed that the book should be produced; for we 
saw the force of the contention that the young 
people of the Church, for whom the book is 
primarily intended, ought to have the opportunity 
of knowing about nev; lines along which the Church 
in India is seeking to develop her work ; and we 
also coveted greatly the help of the prayers of those 
who would read it. But, if the book was to be 
written at all, it was clear that it must be written 
with a good deal of vivid detail. We hope that our 
readers, when tempted to criticize, will bear in mind 
these circumstances of its origin. Sections, for 
instance, like that which describes the daily life in 
the ashram, would have been omitted, or differently 
written, in a general history of the Sangha for all 
classes of readers. 




It is nearing sunset in the days of the great heat. 
The fierce ball of fire, which has blazed pitilessly in 
the heavens all through the long summer day, is 
dropping behind the Western Ghats 1 ; but his 
power, as he glares across the hill-tops, seems still 
scarcely abated, and all nature pants and languishes 
in the stifling heat. 

A long train of pilgrims from the north is 
approaching Poona, once the proud capital of the 
Maratha Empire, where they will sleep the night 
before continuing their long march to Pandharpur, 
the home of their beloved Vithoba 2 in the far south. 
They go on foot, men, women and children together, 
trusting to God and their fellow men for food and 
rough shelter for the night, their orange banners 
proclaiming them as the people of the Quest. 
Onwards they go, seeking, seeking ; grateful now, 
as they near the city, for the shade of kindly trees 
which here join their long arms across the Pilgrim's 
Way : and, as they go, they sing 

" The Endless One is beyond, beyond .... 
But between him and me there rise the lofty 

mountains of desire and anger. 
I am not able to ascend them, nor do I find 

any pass." 

1. The line of mountains stretching down the west coast of India. 

2. The form oi Vishnu's incarnation as Krishna most popular in Western 

1 B 


We stand in the shady Pilgrim's Way and watch 
them go. As the last passes from sight, we turn 
and see beside us, on the other side of a low fence, 
a broad open portico, surmounted by a beehive 
dome and cross, giving access to a large square 
vestibule, with walls of rubble stone and flat concrete 
roof, and beyond this, and stretching out on either 
side of it, a long building, also of rubble stone, flat- 
roofed, with three large windows to the right and 
three to the left, fitted only with rough wooden 

We go in by a gate, and, passing through the 
portico and hall and through a large doorway at its 
far end, find ourselves looking down, from the top 
of a low flight of steps, upon an inner court, 
enclosed on three sides, but open on the fourth (that 
which faces us) to a view of trees and (in the nearer 
distance) the bed of a small stream dried up by the 
long drought. In the centre of the court is a large 
round tank full of clear water, infinitely refreshing 
to the senses in the days of heat, and around it a 
garden of young cypresses and orange trees, among 
which struts a peacock with lordly gait. On its 
three enclosed sides the court is flanked by a narrow 
verandah, along which at somewhat wide intervals 
stand pillars of grey concrete supporting a flat 
concrete roof of no great height. Doves circle 
around and settle on the roof. 

We pass along the thin strip of verandah. On 
that side of the court on which we have entered there 
are rooms enclosed with walls and doors, but on the 


other two sides the building is divided up by 
partitions of whitewashed sackcloth into tiny cells, 
with chics of split bamboo in place of doors, and 
containing for the most part a roll of bedding and a 
box on the stone floor, and a few books and other 
articles in a small recess built into the stone wall at 
the back of the cell. 

The sun has now set, and, though the heat is not 
perceptibly diminished, there is a pleasant sense of 
refreshment from the tempering of the brilliant 
light. From the open garden beyond the court and 
the orange trees comes a sound of singing, and we 
pass out to listen. On a round gravelled platform, 
raised slightly above the surrounding ground, there 
is gathered a company of worshippers, sitting cross- 
legged round the outer rim of the platform in a 
semicircle facing the sunset. They are dressed 
lightly, as befits the days of heat, with a dhoti, or 
loin-cloth, of white homespun, and a light scarf 
flung over the shoulders. Some, it would seem, are 
the. sons of the land ; others strangers from the west, 
who have made its ways their own. In the centre 
of the platform sits one of the company apart, 
casting grains of incense from time to time upon 
hot cinders, from which the wreaths of incense 
smoke float upwards in the still air. We go forward 
and join ourselves to the seated worshippers, as the 
hymn proceeds. It is an Indian melody in the 
Marathi tongue, soft and plaintive, with a poignant 
wistfulness of appeal. One of the Brothers beats 
the time rhythmically with the Indian drum. 


Another makes the "drone" of the melody hum out 
from the twang of the Indian guitar. Others clash 
small cymbals in time with the drum's beat. The 
words of the refrain, often repeated, stamp them- 
selves quickly on the memory. 

Presently the music ceases, and the leader begins 
to offer praise of God: "Formless and Infinite! 
Abyss of Wisdom ! Source and Bestower of Bliss ! 
Fount of Holiness ! Ocean of Mercy ! Father of 
tender Compassions ! To thee be adoration and 
glory !" The stately, resounding Names each of 
them a single Sanskrit compound are soul-stirring 
by their very music, even for those who cannot fully 
comprehend them. 

A brief silence, and the worship proceeds : a 
psalm, chanted antiphonally by leader and 
worshippers; a passage of Scripture; and then 
Magnificat with Indian melody and accompani- 
ment. After this, a few brief prayers; and then, 
once again, with the cymbals' clash and the drum's 
rhythmic beat, the voices break out into a flood of 
sound in one of the exquisite lyrics of Narayan 
Vaman Tilak, the great Christian poet of 
Maharashtra 1 

' ' Be thou at hand, O Lord ; 

Then, though this flesh reside 
In stately palace halls 

Or rugged mountain-side, 
If thine unfailing presence be 
About me still, all's heaven to me. 

1. The name "Maharashtra" is used for all that area (practically the whole 
of Wostern India) over which the Marathi language is spoken. 


Be thou at hand, O Lord; 

Then, though my board be piled 
With wealth of daintiest fare 

Or bitter herbs and wild, 
The whiles my spirit trysts with thee, 
Thyself my nectar feast shall be. 

Be thou at hand, O Lord ; 

Then, though my nightly bed 
On soft and fragrant flowers 

Or roughest rocks be spread, 
So but I lean upon thy breast, 
No breath of care shall mar my rest. 

O dear and inmost soul 
Of all the joys that be, 
My action, thought and speech, 
Yea all, I yield to thee, 
Lord Christ beloved, accept me now ; 
Unfailing rest alone art thou." 

A hush follows the closing cadences of the 
hymn ; and, as the leader bids all to lift their hearts 
to Christ, the true Light, the whole seated company 
softly recites together the ancient Sanskrit words 
which every "twice-born" Hindu learns at his 
investiture with the sacred thread, the Gayatri 
Mantra, by repetition of which man's spirit steadies 
and concentrates its vision for contemplation of the 
Light Eternal : 

Tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi! 
Dhiyo yo naha prachodaydt! 


Let us meditate on the excellent glory of the Divine 

Illuminer ! 

May he inspire our understanding ! 

A deep silence falls, broken only by the low roar 
of distant traffic on road and railway or the murmur 
of voices on the Pilgrim's Way. The flaming 
orange of the sunset pales slowly to amber, dimmed 
at times by the dust-cloud which rises from the trail 
of the' cattle as they wend homewards at the "cow- 
dust" hour. The blue above deepens into purple, 
deepens and darkens till the first stars throb softly 
through. A faint breath of coolness stirs the trees. 
The silence deepens with the shadows; becomes 
pregnant,- living; stealing into the heart with a 
touch of infinite peace. Truly this hour of twilight, 
consecrated from time immemorial in this land of 
religion to communion with the unseen, holds in it 
some unearthly witchery, is mistress of a holy spell. 
How lightly, under its solemn influence, the spirit 
slips from its fleshly shackles, and soars to its true 
home. The "unsubstantial pageant" of earth fades 
and dissolves into the glory of heaven. The still- 
ness is vibrant with the sense of unseen presences 
saints and angels into whose worship we have 
entered. From such a vantage point of vision, how 
small appear the cares and the pleasures of earth, 
how large beyond bearing its sins ! How the soul, 
rapt in the peace of God, yet agonizes over the 
strifes of men, yearns for the merging of earth's 
discords in the heavenly harmony ! . . . . 


Again a low murmur of prayer, startling us with 
a sudden shock of recall: Asatoma sadgamaya: 
tamasoma jyotirgamaya: mrityorma'mritum gam- 
ay a; that prayer which, repeated through unnum- 
bered centuries, breathes the eternal yearning of 
India's heart for God : "From falsehood lead me 
to truth: from darkness lead me to light: from 
death lead me to immortality." 

And then, yet softer, the slow chant 

Peace ! Peace ! Peace ! 



Beside the gate through which we turned in from 
the Pilgrim's Way in Poona stands a board marked 
"Christa Seva Sangha," which means literally 
"Christ Service Society," that is, the Society of 
Servants belonging to Christ. The ground into 
which the gate admitted us is their ashram a word 
which was used in ancient India to describe the 
forest hermitages, where the sages known as Rishis 
used to instruct their disciples in the ways of 
religion, and is still used to denote a home marked 
by a common life of simple character and a certain 
detachment from the world for prayer, study, or 
service. It may be of interest to inquire what were 
the reasons for starting this Society ; what has been 
its history hitherto; and what it is attempting to 
do at the present time. This chapter, therefore, will 
deal with the two principal reasons why it was 
thought desirable that such a Sangha should be 
brought into existence : the next two will outline its 
career during its first eight years of infancy : the 
fourth will give an outline picture of the Sangha as 
it is to-day. 



The two main purposes for which the Sangha 
was originally started may be summed up thus : a 
life of common service and equal fellowship for 
Indians and Europeans; and the development of 
Indian ways for the expression in India of Christian 
life and worship. 

(1) A life of common service and equal fellowship 
for Indians and Europeans. 

There are in India religious communities of 
English people sharing in a common life together, 
and similar communities of Indians. In Christa 
Seva Sangha, however, Indians and Englishmen 
share together in a common life on terms of com- 
plete equality. 

At the great missionary conference held at 
Edinburgh in 1910, an Indian Christian who has 
now become famous as Bishop of Dornakal made 
an appeal to the Western Church in burning words, 
which have never been forgotten by those who heard 
them : "You have given your goods to feed the 
poor; you have given your bodies to be burned; 
now give us love I" 

Too often we who go out to India from the west 
have been guilty of racial arrogancy and superiority. 
It is not only that we have readily assumed leader- 
ship in the work of the Church ; for this was natural, 
and indeed inevitable, in the early pioneer days 
when the infant Church had yet everything to learn 
of Christ and Christian life. Our fault is that we 
are so apt to regard people of another colour as 


essentially inferior to ourselves; and that, even 
though we may show them much kindness and 
make real sacrifices on their behalf, we too often fail 
to offer them the gift of real love and equal friend- 
ship. We do not think of the Indian as really a 
brother or a sister in Christ; and the result is a 
certain gulf between us, which is in truth an 
unnatural gulf and has no right to exist. 

If we allow such a gulf as this to exist, we are 
being false to our whole mission. Christ said : 
"By this shall all men know that ye are my 
disciples, if ye have love one to another." Love, 
overcoming all barriers, welding into one harmoni- 
ous family people of diverse race, education, class, 
temperament, and outlook what a witness this 
would be to the love of Christ ! India, torn and 
distracted by strifes and divisions hindered in her 
advance to freedom and true nationhood by nothing 
so much as the rivalry between Hindu and Moslem, 
Brahman and non-Brahman thirsts after the secret 
of unity I What price would she not pay for the 
medicine which could heal this cancer of disunion 
that saps her strength at every moment ! 

And we have in Christ that secret; for in him 
there is "No Jew or Greek, circumcision or 
uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond or free; 
ye are all one in Christ Jesus." If we could show 
India that the secret of love and unity is indeed in 
Christ, would she not fall at his feet and own him 
Lord? But we Christians have shown, instead, a 
Christendom torn into fragments ; strife among the 


Churches ; racial pride and intolerance ; the bitter- 
ness of party conflict; the spirit of caste even within 
the Church. No wonder India is not impressed ! 

The first reason, therefore, for the starting of 
Christa Seva Sangha was to try to contribute some- 
thing towards the healing of these wounds, and 
especially towards the healing of inter-racial strife. 
In the words of its Rule, the Sangha "has within 
it both Indian and non-Indian members, who 
together form a spiritual family living on terms of 
perfect equality and fellowship, bearing witness to 
the world of the unity that is in Christ." There 
is no question here of missionary and Indian 
Christian. If missionary means ambassador of 
Christ, all the members of the Sangha are mission- 
aries. If missionary means ambassador from an 
elder Church, none are missionaries. For "to the 
non-Indian members India has become their 
adopted motherland," and all alike, Indian and 
non-Indian, are simply fellow-servants of Christ 
and of India. The Sangha's success will depend 
largely on its being faithful to this ideal. 

(2) The Indian presentation of Christian life and 

Let us try to picture to ourselves the mind of an 
educated Brahman in India 1 to-day, as he thinks of 
Christianity and Christ. 

He has become familiar with the Gospels during 
his years in a missionary college or through his own 
private study of them. The central figure there 


depicted exercises a strange fascination over his 
mind. This is One whom he can understand and 
love. His life and teaching seem to answer to the 
best in India's own ideals. All he has vaguely 
admired and striven after is here summed up in 
teaching of compelling simplicity and power, and 
in a life that perfectly exemplifies the teaching, 
crowned by a supreme act of self-sacrificing love. 
Certainly Christ, he feels, must be regarded as a 
true Avatdra 1 1 A man could not go far wrong in 
taking him as guru 2 . He turns to the Christian 
Church to see how it embodies and sets forth the 
spirit of its Master. 

From the first he encounters a shock. The 
Christian Church, it seems, is a western institution, 
not intended for such as himself. He has amongst 
his friends a certain number of educated Indian 
Christians; and, though they are pleasant and 
friendly, they belong, he feels, to a different world 
from his. They dress in European fashion, and 
enter his house in boots. If he goes to their houses 
he finds that they eat meat (which makes it 
impossible for him to share a meal with them), and 
have modelled their houses and style of living on 
that of the west 3 . 

1. viz. : Incarnation. Hindus believe in ten principal incarnations of 
Vishnu, but any outstanding Mahatma ("great soul") may be an incarnation. 

2. Master. 

3. It should be understood that the picture here drawn would not apply 
universally. Many Brahmans, particularly of the younger generation, have 
adopted western ways; and a few educated Indian Christians live like 
Brahmans. The simple and illiterate Christians of the villages are not 


But perhaps he should look, in forming a judg- 
ment, not to the rank and file of Christians, but to 
the gurus of the Christian Church. He would 
hardly seek to learn his own religion from men 
engaged in the ordinary professions of life, but 
rather from those specially dedicated to the life of 
religion as sannyasis those who have renounced 
all in the quest for God, and in their saffron robe, 
with staff and bowl, wander homeless, begging their 
bread, and instructing in spiritual truth those who 
come to them with the true thirst for truth in their 

He seeks, therefore, to discover whether there is 
not some Christian sannydsi from whom he could 
learn the inner mysteries of the Christian religion ; 
but can only hear of a famous sannydsi, Sadhu 
Sundar Singh, whose writings do indeed move him, 
and of a few others of no outstanding distinction. 
Most of the Christian gurus he finds to be living 
lives quite unlike that of the sannydsi 1 . 

Still persisting in his quest he goes one Sunday 
to see the worship at a Christian church in his town. 
Again he meets with disappointment. The church 
itself is built in English Victorian style. The con- 
gregation, clad in immaculate European clothes, 
are seated in pews, without having bared their feet 

1. There is a well-known story of a Hindu fadhu who, wishing to see the 
chief guru of the Christian religion, with a view to refuting his errors, was 
directed to Bishop's House, Calcutta, the residence of the Metropolitan of India. 
But when the Sadhu came in sight of the sumptuous episcopal mansion, he 
turned back home, saying, "I need not waste my time in argument. A 
religion whose chief guru lives thus can never pervert my country from the 
truth." It should be added that no one would be more glad to be relieved 
of the burden of Bishop's House than its present saintly occupant. 


even in the house of God. The psalms sung to 
Anglican chants and the hymns to western tunes 
sound strangely to his ear. There is none of the 
Indian devotional music that he loves so well. 
Passages are read from the Christian scriptures; 
but though they are in his own language, so 
uncouth is the rendering that often he can make no 
sense of them. Prayers are offered, but suffer from 
a like defect 1 . He finds also no intervals of silent 
prayer, no opportunity for quiet worship. There is 
a sense of hurry and unrest. At the close is a 
sermon which has no bearing on those deeper 
philosophic questions which to him are the real 
problems of life. He comes away from the church 
sure that his own instinct of worship can find no 
satisfaction within it. He returns, with a sense of 
relief and deepened appreciation, to his own quiet 
times of prayer and contemplation in the morning 
before daybreak, when he meditates on some 
passage from the Gita? and chants the poems of 
Tukaram 3 . 

Thinking on all these things, he comes to one 
plain conclusion in his mind. He will retain his 
reverence for Christ and try to follow his teaching, 
but he will never think of accepting baptism. How 
can he become one of this strange company with 
their strange ways ? That would be to denationalize 

1. The following is an exact rendering of the address to God at the 
beginning of a Marathi collect : "O God, thou art amazing amidst the 
strength of thy holies." 

2. The Bhagavadgita, or Song of the Adorable One the most popular 
Hindu scripture. 

3. The favourite poet-saint of Maharashtra. 


himself, to be false to his motherland in this day 
when most of all she needs the loyalty of her sons. 
It would mean the denial of his own splendid 
heritage of spiritual truth. He would be asked to 
surrender his own culture, to dress in uncouth ways 
and perhaps even to eat beef ! No, he would rather 
live and die a faithful Hindu, and he can honour 
Christ without submitting to this surrender of the 
things he holds most dear. 

The above picture is typical of the attitude of 
large numbers of educated Hindus at the present 
day. There are many things which prevent them 
from seeing Christ in all his compelling beauty. 
Outstanding among these is the unchristian lives 
of us who bear his Name. But not the least among 
them is the western disguise in which we have 
hidden him. To use Sundar Singh's simile, we 
offer the water of life to India in a western cup, and 
India will not drink. 

A second reason, therefore, for the starting of 
Christa Seva Sangha was to help in developing the 
true Indian expression of Christian life and worship. 
What could be better for this purpose than a 
community of Indian and European Christians, 
living and worshipping together? For the task 
is twofold. On the one hand that which is 
fundamental, universal in Christianity the great 
Catholic heritage of the Church must be pre- 
served; for this is the gift which all men need. 
Here the English Brothers of the Sangha can play 
the leading part. On the other hand, much of 


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The Brothers sit on the low stools. 


what is accidental, temporary, local in western 
Christianity must be shed, and replaced by its true 
Indian counterpart. In fashioning this the Indian 
Brothers must take the lead. The chapters which 
follow will show, in greater detail, some of the ways 
in which this little community is seeking, without 
surrendering its catholicity, to be truly Indian, that 
it may play its part, however small, in building by 
God's grace the Indian Catholic Church. 



(1) The planting. 

Christa Seva Sangha was not the fruit of man's 
planning or man's wisdom. It came "by revelation 
of God." On August 12th, 1919, as the present 
Acharya 1 of the Sangha was sitting in the garden 
of a quiet country vicarage during a period of 
furlough in England, something in his reading 
turned his thoughts to the need of a Christian 
ashram in India ; and immediately, like an imperi- 
ous voice, came the picture of that which must be 
brought into being. Nor was it merely an outline 
picture, but one complete with many detailed 
features which during the years that followed have 
been gradually brought to realization. 

But it was not until nearly three years later that 
the Sangha was actually started. Its inauguration 
took place on St. Barnabas' Day, 1922, in the 
church of St. Barnabas at Miri (a small out-station* 
of the S.P.G. Ahmadnagar Mission); and the 
members chose as their patron saint from the first 

1. viz. : The head of the community, chosen every three years by the 
members themselves. 



St. Barnabas, the Son of Consolation, who sold his 
land for the poor, to whom at a later date was added 
St. Francis, the Little Poor Man of Assisi, who for 
Christ's sake espoused the Lady Poverty. 

The first Brothers were a small group, six in 
number, of whom five were Indians. Of these five 
one had already adopted the saffron robe of the 
sannydsi, and for some years past had journeyed 
on foot from place to place, preaching Christ, and 
depending for food and lodging on those who heard 

The constitution, approved by the bishop, was 
in its earliest form short and simple, designed 
purposely in such a way as to leave room for 
indefinite expansion and modification with the 
growth of experience. Yet it contained in germ all, 
or nearly all, of what has since been developed. 
The Brothers set before themselves, first and 
foremost, bhakti, viz. "devotion" to our Lord, 
giving to prayer in particular the primary place in 
their lives. Side by side with prayer was to go the 
study of the holy Scriptures and other forms of 
subsidiary study. And, further, their lives were to 
be marked by two forms of service to their fellow 
men ; the first, ministry to the sick and suffering and 
all in need; the second, the endeavour to show to 
others, by word and life, something of the beauty 
of that Christ who had come to mean so much to 
them in their own experience. The life was to be 
a life of poverty. None of the Brothers was to 
possess anything of his own. Like the first 


Christians they would have all things in common. 
Whatever they possessed or might get must be put 
into the common fund, and from this they would 
receive only the bare necessities of life. 

One of the first Brothers was a married man; 
yet he, and his wife, were ready to live the same 
life of poverty and sharing, and were given a tiny 
house adjoining that in which the rest of the 
Brothers lived 1 . 

From the first the Brothers set out to live in 
simple Indian style. They were allotted, as their 
head-quarters, a small house in the mission com- 
pound at Miri. It contained no furniture. The 
Brothers, like most of the poor in India, made use 
of the ground whether for sitting or lying. At 
night they would unroll their small rolls of bed- 
ding on the verandah. The food at first it is 
always cheapest in the villages cost only five 
annas (about sixpence) a day per head. It was 
purely vegetarian, consisting of chapatis or bhakers 
(cakes of unleavened wheat or millet, rolled out like 
pancakes), green vegetables, rice and lentils, oil 
and ghi (clarified butter). Their dress was a long 
cassock-like robe, similar in shape to the saffron 
dress of the Hindu sannydsi, but made of white 
home-spun and home-woven cloth called khaddar, 
and girded with a saffron girdle. In the probation- 
ary stage that of mumukshu or postulant a 
simple dhoti and shirt were worn. The distinctive 

1. For an account of the later development of the "Third Order," see page 40. 


habit marked a definite acceptance under the rule 
into the position of sddhak or novice. The Brother 
who had already pledged himself to the life of a 
sannyasi continued to wear the full saffron dress, 
and it was decided that this colour always associ- 
ated in India with complete renunciation and 
dedication to the life of religion would be the mark 
of those Brothers who should hear the call (as it was 
hoped that many would in due course come to hear 
it) to a life wholly dedicated to our Lord in the 
unmarried state. 

The Brothers wore no shoes. Indoors, they 
went barefoot; outside, sandals were worn. 

From the first there was present in the Brothers' 
minds the vision of a body of Christian sannydsis, 
whether Indian or European of race, who might 
help in showing to India the true beauty of 
Christian life in the way that India can best under- 
stand. For India, though she has seen much of 
the pomp and magnificence of great monarchs, has 
ever reserved her deepest reverence for those who, 
for love of God and thirst after the true spiritual 
riches, abandon all that they possess and live in 
utter poverty, making the whole world their home ; 
and surely it would be from such that India would 
learn most readily of Christ? "When you bring 
Christ to us," said a great Hindu, "bring him to 
us not as a civilized European, but as an Asiatic 
ascetic, whose wealth is communion and whose 
riches are prayers." 


Nevertheless the Brothers, in looking to the 
growth of a body of Christian sannyasis, knew that 
in two respects at least the Christian sannyasi must 
seek to show to India a new type of renunciation. 
For, in the first place, in India the two ideals of 
renunciation and service have too often been kept 
distinct. Those who have been most active in 
service have not been those who followed the way 
of asceticism. The life of the sannyasi, dedicated 
to the religious quest, has too often been a life of 
spiritual luxury, without profit to the community. 
But the Christian sannyasi, unless he is to be false 
to the spirit of his Master, must clearly be foremost, 
not only in renunciation, but also in humble 
ministry to his fellow men. He must cut away 
from him all the fetters and entanglements of the 
world, not that he may save his own soul, but that 
he may be free for the service of others. 

In one other respect, too, must a new note be 
sounded by Christian asceticism in India. Accord- 
ing to Hindu theory, matter and material things 
are evil. The world is a place of evil, to be escaped 
by him who would find God. The Christian asks, 
not to be taken out of the world, but only to be kept 
from its evil. To him renunciation is not escape 
from life, but fullness of life and joy. St. Francis 
and his followers, having espoused the Lady 
Poverty, went singing through the world, finding 
it filled with beauty, hardly able to contain their 
merriment. This is the joyous outlook which the 
Brothers of Christa Seva Sangha set also before 


them. And it was in full accord with this that they 
had from the first married people in close associa- 
tion with them, and learnt to look on the unmarried 
state not (with Hindus) as a state in itself higher 
than the married, but only as a state to which, for 
special purposes of service, God might call some 
among his children. 

The worship of the Brothers was marked from 
the first by some characteristically Indian features. 
Their eucharistic liturgy, which received the sanc- 
tion of the episcopal synod of India, follows the 
model of eastern rather than western liturgies, and 
is specially akin to the Syriac liturgy of St. James, 
which for some centuries has been in use among the 
Syrian Christians of Travancore, who form the 
original Christian Church of the land. 

Further, in India the hours of morning and 
evening twilight, known as sandhya, or "joints" of 
the night and day, have from early days been set 
apart for prayer ; and one of the most characteristic 
features of the Brothers' life has always been the 
observance of these two times of prayer, when they 
assemble in the open air and sit in a semicircle, 
facing in the morning towards the deepening glory 
of the sunrise, and in the evening towards the slow 
fading sunset. 

Emphasis has been laid, in the Brothers' wor- 
ship, on such ancient Christian ceremonies as 
naturally appeal to the heart of India. Examples 
of this (though not all have been in use from the 
first) are the procession of lights at Candlemas and 


of palms on Palm Sunday ; the beautiful ceremony 
of the feet washing on Maundy Thursday and the 
torchlight procession on Good Friday to the 
Stations of the Cross. 

The beautiful Marathi lyrics of Narayan Vaman 
Tilak and other poets, sung to the appropriate 
Indian melodies and instrumental accompaniment, 
have always formed the Brothers' songs of praise. 
These have been freely used also in the work of 
preaching in the villages, which has presently to be 

Two final points must be noticed as having been 
clearly in the Brothers' minds from the beginning. 
They have sought to put in the first place the living 
of the Christian life rathe? than the doing of any 
particular work. They have been well content to 
have no money with which to start schools or other 
institutions, since these often absorb so much of 
the missionary's time that he has little opportunity 
left, either for the proper maintenance of his own 
life of prayer, or for quiet unhurried intercourse 
with those who come to him for guidance. How 
many an enquirer after truth has turned away 
disappointed, because the overworked missionary 
could not spare the time needed for leisurely dis- 
cussion of religious problems. The Brothers have 
tried to avoid the snare of the multiplication of 

And, in the second place, the Sangha has never 
desired to force people into becoming Christians. 
It has been ready at all times to speak of Christ to 


those really desirous of hearing, but it has not 
lightly blazoned abroad the deeper mysteries of the 
faith. This is also in full accord with Indian ideas. 
India understands well the saying of the Master : 
"Cast not your pearls before swine" that there is 
a rightful principle of economy in imparting 
religious truth. Sundar Singh once said to the 
present writer, "Do not build your ashram too near 
the city. Remember that those who are thirsty will 
go to the river : the river need not go to them. If 
there is a somewhat tedious trudge required in order 
to reach your ashram, it will be all to the good ; for 
it will sift your visitors for you, discouraging those 
who would come from mere curiosity, but not 
deterring those really in search of guidance." The 
Brothers have always stood for the principle under- 
lying this advice. : - 

Such, then, welre some of the ideals and aims 
with which Christa Seva Sangha entered on its 
existence in the Year of Grace 1922. 

(2) The day of small things. 

The first four years of the Sangha's life (1922-26) 
were not marked by any striking advance. These 
were the days of quiet testing, calling for much 
faith and patience, when men scoffed at the new 
fad, and at times the little flame that had been lit 
seemed likely to flicker out. They were the days, 
too, of true poverty, when cheap and scanty fare 
had sometimes to be eaten, and often the Brothers 
wondered how funds would be forthcoming, and 


gained ever fresh experience of God's providing 

The work of the Sangha during these years was 
carried on, in no small measure, among the villages 
of the Ahmadnagar district. This brief history of 
Christa Seva Sangha would be incomplete unless it 
contained a few sketches of this work. Here is one 
such sketch. 

The scene is Karanji, a village twelve miles from 
Miri, where the Sangha had birth. The Brothers 
are living in a tent pitched under a tree outside the 
village. At a distance are other tents where two 
women missionaries of the S.P.G. and a few Indian 
women helpers are also encamped. It is the day 
on which the outcastes of the village are to be 
received as catechumens of the Christian Church. 
These poor folk scantily fed and clad; living in 
wretched hovels outside the village; servants and 
scavengers to the villagers, but not allowed to enter 
their houses and temples nor to drink of the village 
well had sent, time and again, urgent petitions 
that a teacher might be sent to them to instruct 
them in the Christian faith and admit them into the 
Christian Church. To the petitions no response 
could be given. It was the old story many places 
asking for teachers, and too few teachers to go 
round. So they had to wait ; and the waiting had 
been some test of their sincerity. 

At last the way had opened, and for a fortnight 
the Brothers and the women workers had encamped 
among them, teaching them night after night, 


when their day's work was done, the simple 
elementary principles of Christian faith and life, 
which catechumens must know. There followed a 
few weeks' interval; and, when their teachers 
returned to complete their instruction for the 
catechumenate, they were confronted with the 
leaders of the outcaste community from four neigh- 
bouring villages, begging that their people also 
might be received into the Christian fold. Here 
was an encouraging sign of true zeal ; for the live 
Christian is always a missionary, and these outcaste 
folk, even before they were catechumens, had been 
telling their friends of Christ. 

So there were then four new villages to be 
instructed, and the teaching of the Karanji folk 
themselves to be completed ; and, when the day for 
receiving them arrived, there was a goodly company 
ready to take the first decisive step in the new life. 

They are gathered that morning men, women, 
and children in an open space beside their own 
rough-and-tumble houses. One of the leaders, a 
strong burly fellow, comes forward of his own 
accord, and with the approval of the whole com- 
pany hews down with an axe the idol which from 
time immemorial has received the homage of these 
outcastes. His reign of fear is over, and his 
fragments are cast into an old well. 

Next the women come forward, bringing the 
earthen pots in which they have been accustomed 
to cook the flesh of animals dying of disease in the 
village, whose carcases these outcastes must remove 


and are glad to eat. It is well that this horrid 
custom should be abandoned by them, even at some 
sacrifice, when they become Christians; and the 
women cast their pots on the ground and break 
them, in token that they will henceforth abandon 
the eating of carrion flesh. 

Then one by one the many families come 
forward father, mother, and children and, ex- 
pressing their belief in Christ and their readiness 
to follow him, are received with prayer as catechu- 
mens the stage of probation before admission to 
the full Christian life. Following an old custom 
of the Church (and how far more eloquently often 
these old symbols seem to speak to India than to 
the sophisticated west !), they show their renuncia- 
tion of the old life and its evils by taking salt into 
their mouths to cleanse them, spitting it out upon 
the ground with all the mouth's impurities. There 
follows an exhortation to faithfulness in the new 
life. Prayers are offered; bhajans 1 are sung; and 
then the whole company passes in procession 
amongst the people's dwellings. Each house is 
blessed in the Name of Christ, and in the small 
recess in the wall which housed the Hindu idol is 
set instead a picture of Christ Crucified. Finally, 
outside, over the doorway, is painted in white the 
sign of the cross, in token that henceforth in that 
dwelling Christ alone holds sway. 

The day's ceremony, so vivid and striking in its 
symbolism, so full of incalculable consequences for 

1. Indian lyrics. 


these outcaste folk, has aroused the interest of the 
people of the village, some of whom have witnessed 
it from a distance. It might have been expected 
that they would oppose the entry of this new 
religion into the outcaste quarters; but, instead, 
they express their joy. "We are so glad," they 
say, "that you have come to teach these ignorant 
folk. Now they will give up stealing and lying 
and other evil habits, and will begin to live decent 
lives, so that we shall be proud of them and be able 
to associate with them." "Come and sing your 
bhajans to us in the village to-night," they request, 
"and tell us about your Christ." The Brothers 
agree. They have refrained hitherto, content to 
visit the people in a friendly way, to give medicines 
to their sick folk or render them other small 
benefits. But they gladly accept the invitation 
proffered, and that night they go in full force to 
the village, armed with drum and cymbals and 

How an Indian village delights in a kirtan! 
They will crowd around every man, woman, and 
child amongst them that can possibly be there and 
listen gladly into the early hours of the morning, 
the children gradually falling asleep on the ground 
or on their mothers' laps. For the kirtan is the; 
Indian village equivalent of the cinema, or shall 
we rather say? the Indian "morality" of the 
Middle Ages, since in the Indian villages we are 
conscious all the time of being back in mediaeval 
days, and the secular is one with the religious. The 


kirtan is a service of song, in which the leader, 
partly preaching and partly intoning a kind of 
recitative, sets forth the praises of God, and in 
particular his doings when incarnate as Krishna or 
in some other form ; calling from time to time upon 
a small choir which accompanies him to chant the 
songs that illustrate his theme, and gradually work- 
ing up his hearers into an ecstasy of bhakti of 
grateful and loving devotion till they too begin to 
sing the names of Hari or Rama, clapping their 
hands in time with the cymbals, their bodies sway- 
ing rhythmically with the music. 

What more natural, then, than to present the 
story of Christ to an Indian village by means of 
a Christian kirtan? You find an audience which, 
instead of being impatient if your sermon exceeds 
twenty minutes or your service an hour, is 
ready to sit all night, if you will, till the tale be 
done. One of the Brothers, acting as leader, tells 
the story of Christ. The others play the part of 
choir and orchestra. Largely through the means 
of poetry and singing is set forth God's way of 
redemption for fallen man, and how Christ came 
into the world, and lived, and died, and rose again 
for us Christ, the one true Avatara, so spotless in 
his moral purity, so boundless in his love, that we 
can rightly offer to him all our heart's devotion. 

The villagers disperse, pondering the tale. "It 
is true," they say; "it is all quite true. The God 
of these Christians is better than our gods. But 
the ways of our fathers are good enough for us. 


We are too old to change. Our sons or our grand- 
sons must settle these new matters, when their day 


Two years have passed, and we are again in 
Karanji, late in the afternoon of Christmas Eve. 
A long procession of men, women, and children, 
dressed in clean white garments, is wending its 
way, with music and singing, back from the river, 
where all those who have received the teaching and 
stood the tests of the two years' catechumenate have 
been plunged under the waters of baptism, in 
speaking symbolism that they have died to sin and 
been raised up with Christ to newness of life. 
Within the large tent which serves as a church the 
bishop in cope and mitre is waiting to receive the 
newly baptized as members of the Church of Christ, 
and to complete their baptism by the laying on of 
hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. 

The confirmation over, the evening passes in 
bhajans and rejoicings; and just before midnight 
again the procession starts from the outcaste 
quarters, and with much singing and beating of 
drums and clashing of cymbals makes its way over 
the stream and through the trees to the tent church 
once more, where these new-born children of God's 
family, able now for the first time to be present 
throughout the Holy Mysteries, prostrate them- 
selves in awe-struck silence in worship of the Child 
of Bethlehem, born to save India and all the world, 
while those who have been judged ready to make 


their first Communion receive him to be born anew 
within their hearts. "You have often told us about 
worship," they say. "Now we have tasted it, and 

We must not dwell more on these early years of 
Christa Seva Sangha, important as they were in its 
history. They were passed in various centres ; for 
the Brothers had no money for land and buildings, 
and lodged where they could, testing various places 
as possible centres for their ultimate home, but 
always hoping that some day and somehow God 
might open the way for them to build their own 
ashram in Poona, the real centre of Maharashtra. 

Their first home at Miri lasted for about a year. 
Then followed a year at Junnar, an old town fifty 
miles north of Poona, beautifully situated near the 
Western Ghats, where the C.M.S. put at their 
disposal an old unoccupied mission bungalow and 
a large field which they were able to cultivate for 
corn and vegetables. This was a valuable year of 
intensive training, but Junnar was too remote from 
the chief centres of life to make a suitable head- 
quarters for the Sangha's work. 

Finally, two years were passed in an old 
Mohammedan tomb, converted into a residence, 
which the Brothers rented at Ahmadnagar, the chief 
centre of S.P.G. work in western India; and here 
they assisted the mission in its pastoral and 
evangelistic work, coming also into much friendly 
contact with the Hindus and Moslems of the city. 
It is to these years that the baptisms at Karanji, 



described above, belong. Another vivid recollec- 
tion, dating from this period of the Sangha's 
history, is that of the hot weather of 1925, when, 
with a shade temperature of well over 100 daily, 
the Brothers, assisted by a small group of voluntary 
workers, toured through the Ahmadnagar district, 
conducting at each of five different centres an 
intensive mission, lasting for a week, for the 
instruction of the village Christians and the quick- 
ening of their spiritual life. One notable mark of 
this tour was that at every centre these poor outcaste 
folk (so accustomed generally to look to the mission- 
aries for temporal help) showed their gratitude to 
the Brothers by themselves bringing water and fire- 
wood without charge for their use, and providing 
a bullock-cart to carry their cooking vessels and 
rolls of bedding on to the next village, whilst at one 
centre the whole of the food during their week's 
stay was supplied by one of the village Christians. 
So the years passed until 1926, the annus 
mirabilis of the Sarigha, when God began to give 
the increase. 


Up till 1926 the membership of Christa Seva 
Sangha continued almost stationary. During these 
first four years of its life several Indian Christians 
had come to stay for a while with the Brothers with 
a view to testing their vocation for the life, but 
none had stayed on to join them. Moreover, two 
of the first members had left. So that early in 1926 
there were only the English Acharya. and three 
Indian Brothers remaining, and many doubts were 
raised as to whether the venture could last much 

In the spring of that year the four Brothers were 
enabled by a small legacy of money to go on 
pilgrimage to the Holy Land; and, after a fort- 
night of unforgettable experiences at the Holy 
Places in Jerusalem and Bethlehem, at Nazareth 
and the Sea of Galilee, at Carmel and Joppa, the 
three Indian Brothers returned to India, while the 
Acharya proceeded to England for a time of 

On June 7th a letter from India made it appear 
that the Sangha might not be able to hold together 



much longer 1 , and the Acharya went with a heavy 
heart that day to the triennial festival of the 
Theological College at Wells. The next morning, 
in the cathedral, a word of encouragement came 
to him from the First Lesson, "The Lord is able 
to give thee much more than this." 

Exactly a month later the Acharya met (at their 
own request), in a three days' conference in 
London, a group of young men, mostly Oxford and 
Cambridge graduates and undergraduates, some of 
whom were thinking of going abroad as mission- 
aries, but were feeling out after something like the 
manner of life and way of work for which Christa 
Seva Sangha was standing. At a further confer- 
ence held later in the year some of this group 
decided definitely to throw in their lot with the 
Sangha. Others before long joined them. The 
result was that, when the Acharya returned to India 
early in the following year, he took with him three 
young Englishmen, who later in the year were 
followed by five more, four of whom were priests. 
In the meantime two new Indian Brothers had been 
received, so that by the close of the year 1927 the 
Sangha had grown to a considerable strength, both 
on the Indian and European side. 

Not only so, but during the same period much 
interest had been aroused in England in the works 
and aims of the Sangha, and a considerable sum of 
money had been collected. This made it possible 

1. These difficultie3 disappeared shortly afterwards. 


for the Brothers at last to carry out their long- 
cherished design of buying land and establishing 
their ashram in Poona. Poona is, next to Bombay 
itself, the most important city in the Bombay 
Presidency. In the old days it was the capital of 
the Maratha Empire and the seat of the Peshwas. 
In modern times it has taken a lead in social and 
political advance, being associated with such 
distinguished names as those of Justice Ranade and 
G. K. Gokhale, the reformers; B. G. Tilak, the 
politician ; and Sir Ramkrishna Bhandankar, saint 
and scholar. It contains the headquarters of the 
noble society for social reform known as "The 
Servants of India," and of the Seva Sadan 
(Home of Service), the equally splendid society for 
women's uplift, and two important homes of 
historical and literary research work, purely Indian 
in character. It is rich in colleges, containing two 
large and flourishing arts colleges under Indian 
management besides the government arts college, 
and also colleges of agriculture, engineering, 
medicine, and law, and the small beginnings of an 
indigenous "women's university." The students 
of these colleges run into several thousands, and 
there are no less than thirty thousand school 
children. Yet in so important an intellectual centre 
there is as yet no Christian college, nor was there, 
until Christa Seva Sangha arrived, even a Christian 
hostel for college students. Here then, with great 
rejoicing, the Brothers were able to secure for their 
ashram, towards the close of 1927, 5 acres of 


land, in a convenient site, a mile outside the city, 
and within easy reach of most of the important 
colleges ; and on this land during the early part of 
the following year they built the math 1 , beside 
which we have already found them engaged in the 
worship of the evening sandhya. 

Something of the life and work of the ashram 
will be described in the next chapter. This chapter 
must conclude by noting a few points of special 
interest in the history of the past two years. The 
Brothers received, from the first, the warmest of 
welcomes from the other Christian bodies in Poona. 
In particular, the Cowley Fathers, whose splendid 
mission had already been established there for half 
a century and more, greeted them with the greatest 
friendliness, glad that they should undertake work 
more specially for students and educated non- 
Christians, as they themselves concentrated mainly 
on work for Christians. The Presbyterians, also 
long established in Poona, were equally warm in 
their welcome, and offered to share with the Sangha 
their hall in the city, named after the famous Scots 
missionary John Small, for the purpose of lectures, 
Bible classes, and other gatherings. 

On St. Mark's Day (April 25th), 1928, the 
present Acharya was professed by the Bishop of 
Bombay as the first Siddha? of the Sangha. 

1. The ashram is the whole enclosure of 5J acres. The math (pronounced 
mutt) is the "monastery" or "cloister" within it where the Brothers live. 

2. This title for a professed member has now been altered to Sannyasi. 
The two stages on the way to full membership are those of mumukshu or 
postulant, and sadhak or novice. (See above, page 20.) 


Early in June of that year the Brothers were 
able to enter into occupation of the math 1 , which, 
as now completed, has room for thirty Brothers and 

On St. Barnabas' Day (June llth), six years 
from the Sangha's birth, a revised and enlarged 
Rule, better suited to the new conditions, came into 
operation. The most important change introduced 
was that of distinguishing between the two classes 
of members of the Sangha, viz. the First Order, of 
unmarried members who set before themselves a 
life dedicated to our Lord under the conditions of 
poverty, chastity, and obedience, and the Third 
Order, of householders, working in close associa- 
tion with them, but living under a less strict rule 
adapted to the conditions of married life ; and it is 
hoped that in due course a Second Order, consisting 
of Sisters living in poverty, chastity, and obedience, 
may come into being. By this change Christa Seva 
Sangha came deliberately into the succession of the 
religious orders of Christendom, whose life has 
always centred around the "evangelical counsels." 
In spirit the Sangha has more in keeping with the 
Franciscan Order than with any other. In the 
ordering of its life, while it maintains a strict round 
of prayer and discipline, it goes back in some 
respects behind the Benedictine tradition to the 
freer type of monasticism associated with St. Basil 
and the East. 

1. Some of the cells, and also the reception hall in front of the math, 
were completed later. The greater number of the cells are little rooms, 
6-ft. by 8-ft., with canvas partitions, as described in the prologue. 


Another feature of the revised Rule a change 
of form rather than of substance was the use of the 
names of the three traditional Indian "paths," the 
bhaktimarga, or way of devotion, the dnydnamarga, 
or way of knowledge, and the karmamarga, or way 
of works, as indicating the three ways of prayer, 
sacred study, and active ministry, by which the 
Servants of Christ seek to render him their service. 

The name of St. Francis was also at this stage 
formally added to that of St. Barnabas as the second 
Patron Saint of the Sangha, though the Brothers 
had, even before this, begun to hold in special 
esteem and affection the Little Poor Man of Assisi. 

On Michaelmas Day (September 29th), 1928, 
the Bishop of Bombay visited the ashram and 
blessed all the buildings contained in it, viz. the 
math itself, and also the library, refectory and 
common room, the kitchen and the married 
quarters 1 . He dedicated, but did not consecrate, 
the temporary chapel in the large upper room over 
the library, refectory, and common room ; for it is 
the hope of the Brothers that some day they may 
be able to build with their own hands a noble 
permanent church, of Indian design, embodying 
the ideals for which they stand. 

In the following month a small hostel for college 
students was opened in two rented bungalows half 
a mile from the ashram. Two of the Brothers were 
put in charge, and no difficulty has been found in 
filling all the available space with students 

1. A guest house was added later. 


Christian, Hindu, and Moslem. The work and life 
of the hostel are described in the next chapter. 

Early in 1929 the Sangha suffered the loss of its 
first Visitor, Bishop Palmer, whose wise counsel 
and constant encouragement had been of immense 
value during the early years of its existence. In 
his place the sabha 1 elected Bishop Azariah of 
Dornakal (the first Indian Bishop of the Anglican 
Communion) to be their Visitor, confident that out 
of his wide experience and inside knowledge of 
Indian conditions he would be especially capable 
of guiding the development of the life and work of 
the Sangha as a truly Indian community. He was 
received by the Brothers as their Visitor in the 
ashram chapel on November 4th. 

In this year also a further revision of the Rule 
was made, and, amongst other changes, the concep- 
tion of the Third Order was greatly enlarged so as 
to include not only those working in close associa- 
tion with the First Order in Poona, but also men 
and women, married and unmarried, who have the 
ideals of Christa Seva Sangha at heart, and who 
will labour, both by word and example, to promote 
the spread of the knowledge of Christ, simplicity 
of living, and the brotherhood of all mankind. 

During these years the membership of the 
Sangha, both Indian and European, continued by 
God's blessing to grow, and by March, 1930, had 

1. The sabha is the "chapter" of all the Brothers, which is the Sangha's 
governing body that directs its work and policy. The Visitor exercises a 
general supervision, and helps by his advice. 


reached to twenty, these being divided fairly 
equally between the two races. 

One final event, only indirectly connected with 
the Sangha, may complete this outline history. On 
March 1st, 1930, the Church of England in India 
finally entered upon that freedom from the State for 
which she had fought so long, and became simply 
the Church of India. The Sangha cannot but 
rejoice in the breaking of these shackles which 
bound the Church to which it belongs, since it 
opens the way for that Church to develop her life 
and worship, without undue hindrance from the 
west, in the ways best suited to India, and in accord- 
ance with her own proper genius. 



We have seen something of the reasons why 
Christa Seva Sangha was started, and of its history 
during the first eight years of its life. We must 
now try to picture the Sangha as it is to-day. 

(1) A day at the ashram. 

The ashram is the Sangha's home. It sums up 
in itself all that the Sangha stands for. It is 
intended to be much more than a centre for the 
Brothers' work. The ideal of the ashram is that it 
should be a holy place, instinct with the spirit of 
love, joy and peace, a place where God is felt to be. 
Unless in some real measure it breathes this 
atmosphere, it will fail of its purpose, and the 
Sangha will fail with it. 

The ashram is a home of peace. We have 
listened already, as the darkness gathered round 
the worship of the evening sandhya, to the soft 
closing benediction, shdnti, shdnti, shdnti the 
word that speaks so movingly to the Indian soul 
of the deep tranquillity which the storms of life can- 
not ruffle that "peace of God which passeth all 



understanding." That closing word of the sandhya 
ushers in the greater silence, which lasts until the 
next day's meditation is over. The Brothers rise 
from the sandhyasthdn 1 and walk in silence in the 
gathering darkness to the refectory, where the 
simple evening meal of rice and lentils is served, 
two of the Brothers acting as the servers appointed 
for the day and one as lector to read aloud during 
the meal. 

A period for private reading follows, varying 
from one hour to two according to the time of year 
(for the time of sandhya and the evening meal 
changes with the sunset); and then shortly before 
nine o'clock the bell sounds, and the Brothers repair 
to their chapel in the upper room for the closing 
prayer of the day. A long room, austere and 
unadorned. At its eastern end stands a simple altar, 
with red hangings and frontal, and on it a brass 
cross bearing a small figure of Christ in the likeness 
of a 7ishi z the work of an Indian brass-smith in 
the Poona bazaar. At the ends of the altar are two 
samayas brass stands expanding at the top into a 
saucer containing ghi 3 , around which project seven 
lighted wicks of cotton. Before the sanctuary hang 
three brass sanctuary lamps, also of Poona work- 
manship, the central lamp being now lit, the others 
only for festal services. On the walls are hung a 
few pictures, including two of great beauty by a 

1. The place of sandhya, viz. : the round raised platform described in 
the prologue. 

2. An Indian sage. 3. Clarified butter. 


young Indian Christian artist, and one of Christ, 
the Sannyasi, painted by a Hindu. A figure of 
Christ upon the Cross meets the eye on entering. 
The chapel is bare of seats. (The Brothers sit on 
the floor for quiet prayer and meditation, and for 
hearing addresses or the reading of Scripture. 
Their other two attitudes of prayer, in accordance 
with universal eastern custom, are standing and 
prostration, the latter particularly having a large 
place at the eucharistic worship.) 

One by one the Brothers enter, having put off their 
sandals, and leaving outside, or turning low, the 
lanterns which they carry at night for safety against 
snakes and scorpions. The samayas sparkle on the 
altar, the cross gleaming in their light ; the central 
sanctuary lamp shines with a red glow above; the 
rest of the chapel is in dimness. The office of 
compline follows. It is used almost unchanged 
(except for its Marathi setting and the Indian tunes 
for the hymn and Nunc Dimittis) ; for it has 
endeared itself to Indian as it has to western 
Christians. At its close the Acharya, standing at 
the altar, turns to the Brothers, and, holding up in 
his hand a brass cross, blesses them with it three 
times, using the beautiful words of the "Prayer of 
the Protection" 1 from the compline service of the 
Syrian Christians. It is the Master's own blessing 
of peace and protection for the night. The lights 
on the altar are put out. By the dim glow of the 
hanging lamp can be seen silent figures, lingering 

1. See Appendix. 


on in prayer. Then, one by one, the Brothers 
return to their cells, where in a little while the mats 
are unrolled on the floor, the lanterns turned low, 
and sleep reigns in the court of the math, while the 
silent stars keep sentinel. 

The ashram is a home of prayer. Of the three 
ways by which the Brothers seek to serve our Lord, 
prayer is the first and chiefest, and the whole day's 
course is punctuated with the fixed times of prayer. 
The Sangha has adopted the traditional hours of 
Christian monastic devotion, but it is seeking to 
develop a type of "office" which shall be better 
suited to the Indian religious temperament than 
those of the west. 

"Very early, while it is yet dark," the rising 
bell sounds, and one of the Brothers passes slowly 
down the whole length of the cloister, singing a 
morning bhajan, the others joining in as the cantor 
passes their cells. A short form of prime, opening 
with some of the rising prayers of the Hindus 
adapted to Christian use 1 , is said by the Brothers 
in their cells ; and, half an hour later, as the first 
light is dawning in the eastern sky, they gather in 
the open air for the morning sandhya, a kind of 
Indian lauds, or prayer of the dawn, answering to 
the evening sandhya, or vespers, of the sunset. 

By the time this ends daylight has come, and 
the sun is almost rising; so to the singing of the 
ancient hymn, "Now that the daylight fills the 

1. See Appendix. 


sky," the Brothers pass in procession to the chapel, 
where the Holy Mysteries are daily celebrated in 
accordance with the moving Indian rite that from 
the first they have had permission to use 1 . On 
Sundays and Holy Days they use the full service 
with music and incense, and the beautiful shanti- 
-wandfin, or "Salutation of Peace," passed from 
Brother to Brother down the chapel ; and the service 
is also on these days preceded by the udak-shanti 
(literally the "water-peace"), a beautiful Indian 
form of the Asperges, the priest sprinkling the 
people with holy water with a rose or some other 

The Holy Eucharist is followed by breakfast in 
the refectory a room adorned with pictures of 
Indian saints and patriots. This meal is eaten in 
silence; and then, after an interval for sweeping 
and dusting the cells 2 , the Brothers re-assemble for 
a brief office of terce, followed by a period of 
meditation. In the religious life of Hinduism 
dhydna (contemplation) occupies so important a 
place that any Christian community which seeks to 
appeal to the soul of India must be, at least in some 
measure, contemplative. Unless the Church can 
produce great Christian Yogis masters in the 
spiritual life, who are competent to direct others in 

1. See page 23. This Indian liturgy is published by Messrs. Longmans 
and Co., under the title, "An Order, for the administration of Holy Com- 
munion sanctioned by the Episcopal Synod of India for experimental use in 
the Diocese of Bombay." (2s. 6d.) 

2. The Brothers do all their own housework, but have as yet found none 
of their own number able to undertake the cooking, so * paid cook is 


the discipline and science of the mystical way 
she will fail to attract the choicest spirits of 
Hinduism. It is difficult, therefore, to exaggerate 
the importance of the time set apart for meditation 
and contemplation in the life of the ashram. Each 
of the Brothers receives guidance and help in the 
spiritual life from his guru, or director, who is 
either the Acharya or someone appointed by him. 

But the ashram is also a home of study. The 
time of meditation over, the greater silence comes 
to an end. The rest of the morning is given up to 
study ; and, in order to insure silence for this pur- 
pose, the rule of the lesser silence is enforced till 
midday, forbidding idle conversation but allowing 
speech in connection with work or study. Every 
Brother is expected to give at least one hour daily 
to study, and some particularly those reading for 
holy orders have many hours to put in. Lectures 
are delivered regularly by those Brothers who are 
qualified to give them, the course including the 
subjects usually taken by ordination candidates and 
the study of Indian religion. Some of the Brothers 
are engaged in various forms of literary work ; one 
on a book on Canarese literature, another trans- 
lating lives of the saints into Hindi, another making 
researches in Indian mysticism, several writing 
articles on. Christianity for publication in non- 
Christian papers. 

At midday, after the saying of the Angelus, 
comes a brief office of sext, followed by intercessions 
which vary from day to day. After this is the 


principal meal of the day chapatis and vegetable 
curry, rice and lentils, and curds. The Brothers 
(dressed now in dhotis and little more) sit cross- 
legged in the Indian fashion on little square wooden 
stools, just raised off the floor. They eat with their 
fingers from brass plates tinned on the inner side. 
Each takes his turn in serving. Already the 
Brothers have almost overflowed their small 
refectory. When, as frequently happens, one or 
two guests are present, accommodation is taxed to 
the uttermost. At times some of the Brothers have 
to feed on the verandah outside. 

It is a strangely mixed company, judged by 
origin European, Australian, and Indian ; Brah- 
man and Lingayat ; caste and outcaste ; Englishmen 
from college and from primary schools; Indians 
brought up in the English language, and Indians 
to whom English is a sealed book. Yet all these 
differences are forgotten utterly, swallowed up in 
an all-pervading sense of a family made one in 

Conversation runs high, and you may hear 
Marathi and English, Urdu and Hindi, Tamil and 
Canarese, all spoken at one and the same time ; but 
the babel seems to help, rather than hinder, the 
building of a tower "whose top shall reach unto 

The two hours of the early afternoon, following 
this meal, are left at the Brothers' own disposal, to 
write letters (it may be) or to read, to sleep or to 
swim in the tank. The later afternoon, following 


none and an early tea, is the part of the day more 
specially devoted to karmamarga, the "way of 
works." Some of these works are outside the 
ashram and others within. Always a number of 
the Brothers go out at this time for various bits of 
service. There are the poor to be visited, or a sick 
man or woman to be taken to hospital. Once a 
week a small group goes off to the leper asylum, 
six miles distant, to cheer its unfortunate inmates 
with gossip and singing, and to tell them of Christ 
who cared for the lepers. Other Brothers have as 
their charge the visiting of prisoners, Indian and 
European, in the gaol, or of the patients in the 
hospital. A monthly service of intercession for the 
sick is also held, and many have been helped at this 
time through the laying on of hands with prayer. 
Sometimes there is a class to be taken, 
or a lecture delivered, at the John Small Hall 
in the city or at the Brothers' own hall at the 
ashram. The numbers on these occasions are 
usually small ; but for some lectures notably those 
of Dr. Stanley Jones in 1929 the hall has been 
packed to overflowing. The Bible classes held 
there have attracted a small but keen group. Or 
the special call of the evening may be a meeting or 
inter-communal dinner of the International Fellow- 
ship a movement (started by a leading Indian 
Christian in Madras, and now spreading to various 
other centres in India) which seeks to break down 
religious, racial, and social barriers, and to deepen 
the spirit of co-operation and brotherhood. Other 


"works" are done within the ashram itself. In 
particular, there will always be, at this hour of the 
day, some of the Brothers engaged upon the work 
of the garden, where it is hoped in due course to 
produce all the fruit and vegetables needed for the 
Sangha's use. Visitors in plenty come to the ashram 
at this and at other times. Some of them are little 
more than interested sightseers, but many are 
seekers after truth, eager to know what the dwellers 
in this ashram have found, and what they have to 
tell. Hindus, Moslems, Jains, Buddhists, Jews, 
Parsees, Brahmo-Samajists, politicians, monks and 
ascetics, editors and journalists, social reformers 
and professors, Indian and European Christians 
all manner of people enter by the gate; and the 
Brothers can perform no more useful function than 
in seeking, through the intercourse of friendship, 
both to learn of such visitors what they have to give 
of spiritual truth, and, if it may be, to impart some- 
thing in return. Sometimes such friends are more 
than passing visitors. They come to stay for a 
period in the ashram to share the life of the 
Brothers. A Sufi mystic and poet; a Brahman 
pundit ; a Jain turned Christian ; a Parsee 
merchant; an Arya-Samajist from East Africa; a 
Czecho-Slovakian professor ; such are a few of the 
many interesting personages who have come to 
stay, for greater or lesser periods, in the ashram. 
It is one of the Brothers' greatest privileges to be 
brought in daily contact with such well-loved 


On more than one occasion a group of Hindus, 
mostly Brahmans, has come for a Sunday's "quiet 
day" at the ashram, spending much time in the 
chapel in prayer, and eagerly attentive to the 
addresses which were delivered ; and warm has been 
their testimony to the help which such times can 
bring in the guidance and deepening of the spiritual 

One Holy Week and Easter the Brothers were 
privileged to entertain, for retreat and conference, 
a large body of workers belonging to the National 
Missionary Society a society run by Indian 
workers on Indian money. On great festivals the 
Brothers follow the Indian custom of giving a feast 
to poor and outcaste children 

But the day hastens to its close. The garden 
work is ended. The Brothers return, if possible, 
from their outside labours by the hour of sunset, 
when once again all gather for the worship of the 
evening sandhya. Some of the visitors remain to 
share the worship. On a bridge not far away a 
group of students sits to listen to the bhajans. The 
bell of the Angelus is sounded, and once again there 
is the offering of prayer and hymn and long silent 
adoration in the gathering dusk, closing in the final 
benediction of peace. 

(2) The Students' Hostel. 

One of the most important "works" of the 
Sangha is the students' hostel. Poona, as we saw 
above, is a centre of student life. Its colleges 


attract enormous numbers of young men between 
the ages of eighteen and twenty-four, and most of 
these have to find lodgings in the city, for the 
hostels connected with the colleges cannot accom- 
modate more than a small percentage of the 
students. The conditions of city lodgings are good 
neither for soul nor body. Sanitation is poor. 
There is much fever. At times plague breaks out. 
There are also many temptations in the city for 
young men just freed from the restraints of home 
and school life. 

In these circumstances it became clear that the 
Sangha would be performing an important piece of 
public service if it could start a hostel for some of 
these college students, where they would be able to 
live under decent conditions and a sufficient, if not 
over-rigorous, discipline. 

In the autumn of 1928, as was noted in the last 
chapter, the hostel was started in a couple of rented 
bungalows half a mile from the ashram. At once 
there was a rush of applications from students ask- 
ing to come. In a few days the hostel was full up 
with a waiting list. A third bungalow in the same 
compound has now been added, and about twenty 
students in all can be accommodated. They are an 
extraordinarily mixed lot Christians, Hindus, and 
Moslems and hailing from various parts of India : 
arts students and students of law, agriculture and 
engineering. But all are one family, and all inter- 
dine. This is sacramental, and testifies to the 
determination to break down those barriers of 


community and caste which have so held India in 
bondage. Some of the Hindus have themselves 
been most forward in insisting on this common 


The garage upon the compound has been turned 
into a beautiful little chapel, very simply decorated 
with some lovely blue hangings, a crucifix, and 
some pictures all the gifts of friends. Here there 
is a daily eucharist, and prayers at other times of 
the day. The Christian students come to chapel 
each morning at 6.30 and each evening at 9.45 ; and 
to each of these Christians in the hostel the 
Brothers try to give an hour a week individually 
for Bible study and Christian teaching. 

The Brothers do not desire to force their religion 
on the non-Christian students ; but many of these 
also are of their own accord coming to them for 
spiritual guidance and moral help. Many are the 
talks on religion and the spiritual life ; and on every 
Sunday morning there is a brief service with an 
address for all who like to come. 

There are other activities that centre in this 
hostel of the Sangha. The Literary Society meets 
each Saturday, when lectures on a variety of general 
subjects are delivered. Games are a feature of the 
hostel life, and sometimes an outing is arranged 
to some place of interest. Two Bible circles, are 
arranged for Christian students. These are not 
confined to the hostel students, but are open to all 
who care to come, and include women students in 
their membership. 


But the Brothers have always desired that the 
outstanding note of the hostel life should be service ; 
it is, therefore, a matter of special joy to them that 
the hostel students themselves run two night schools 
for poor children. One is in Urdu, for the children 
of the Mohammedan servants. The other is in 
Marathi, for the children of "untouchable" out- 
caste folk at the hostel's very doors. 

Such are some of the activities of the hostel. 
The Brothers hope that some day they may be able 
to build a student hostel of their own, better suited 
to their needs than the present hired bungalows. 

(3) Work in the Villages. 

India is a land of villages. Those who know 
only the town have not seen the real India. The 
peasant farmers, living in innumerable country 
towns and hamlets, and forming from 70 to 80 per 
cent, of the whole people, are still the true backbone 
of the land. 

Christa Seva Sangha (as we have seen) started 
its work in the villages ; and, though for a while its 
village work was in abeyance during the erection 
of the ashram in Poona and the first building up of 
the ashram life, it is now being resumed again. For 
the Brothers realize that, if they work only among 
the educated people of the town and ignore the poor 
of the country, they will inevitably grow partial 
and one-sided in their outlook and service. 

In the closing months of 1929 a party of 
Brothers, setting out from Poona, revisited the 


scenes of their early labours in Karanji and the 
district around; and in the hot weather (March to 
May) of 1930 a similar body toured in the district 
near Poona, seeking opportunities of initiating a 
work of village uplift (in which one of their number 
has had expert training); lecturing on hygiene, 
sanitation, and child-welfare in various village 
centres; and expounding, through bhajans and 
preaching, to those willing to hear of it, the message 
of Christ as the true moral dynamic for the highest 
and most permanent uplift. 

The Brothers hope that they may be able to find, 
in the neighbourhood of Poona, a suitable centre in 
which to found a village ashram, where a few of 
the Brothers can live permanently with a true 
simplicity, such as the conditions of town life make 
difficult and others from Poona join them from 
time to time. Such a Christian ashram would be a 
place of service to the village people a home where 
the peasants would be welcomed as friends, and 
whose purpose would be to assist, by whatever ways 
might open, and with the people's own co-operation, 
the whole physical, moral, and spiritual betterment 
of the village life. The establishment of such a 
village ashram would seem to be the next advance 
towards which God is leading the Brothers of 
Christa Seva Sangha. 


It is drawing towards the evening of Christmas 
Day. The shadows are lengthening across the 
ashram court, which is filled with a motley assembly 
of men and women, some seated upon chairs and 
rough benches, others squatting upon the ground, 
all facing towards the central doorway of the math, 
where a rough white curtain hangs, screening that 
part of the verandah as for a stage. 

In the front of the company a party of singers 
and instrumentalists, seated on the ground, beguiles 
the time of waiting with a number of Marathi 
bhajans, while the people assemble. The audience 
is strangely mixed. Here are many Hindu friends 
of the Sangha college professors and college 
students, schoolmasters and pleaders, merchants 
and men of business. Here are Moslems and 
Parsees ; members of the Theosophical Society, and 
the Prarthana Samaj 1 , and the Servants of India 
Society ; all glad to show their friendship to the 
Sangha, and their reverence to the Christ of 
Bethlehem, by coming to witness the drama of his 
nativity which the Brothers have prepared for this 
Christmas festival. Here, too, are Indian Christians 

1. A theistic reforming society. 


of various denominations men, women, and 
children ; and English Christians mostly mission- 
aries, among them the Superior General of the 
Society of St. John the Evangelist. 

The music ceases, and the Acharya, vested in 
alb and cope, comes forward from the curtains and 
explains briefly the scenes that are about to be 
witnessed. The curtain is drawn, revealing the 
prophet Isaiah, an imposing white-bearded figure, 
who proclaims from the scroll of his prophecy 
the coming redemption and the coming Herald. 
"Comfort ye, comfort ye, my people, saith your 
God" .... "The voice of one crying in the wilder- 
ness, prepare ye the way of the Lord : make his 
paths straight." .... 

The prophet ushers on the Herald, the Fore- 
runner. A strange, ascetic figure, with rough and 
hairy mantle ; one shoulder bared ; the skin of his 
face and arms and legs tanned by the desert sun ; 
his locks and beard grown long. He passes slowly 
across the stage, and down the steps, and out into 
the desert. There follow the simple scenes of the 
great wonder of Bethlehem ; the pure Virgin of 
Nazareth, and Gabriel bringing the great tidings; 
the shepherds in the field, keeping watch over 
their flocks by night; the vision of the heavenly 
messenger ; the rough stable, with Joseph and Mary 
and the Holy Child ; the coming of the shepherds, 
and their wondering adoration. 

Each scene is heralded by the singing of some 
suitable hymn, and by the passage of Scripture 


describing it, read by the Acharya. Of scenery and 
scenic "properties" there is none. All is utter 
simplicity, and for the most part in dumb show. 
The parts of Gabriel, Isaiah, and John the Baptist 
are acted by English Brothers, the rest by Indian. 
An Indian Brother in a simple sari takes the part 
of the Blessed Virgin, and no sense of incongruity 
is felt. She sings Magnificat in its Marathi setting, 
and later an Indian lullaby to her Child, who is not 
shown himself, but only the rough wooden box 
which serves for cradle. The shepherds are dressed 
in the rough garb of the Indian shepherd. One 
young lad, bearing around his neck a lamb to offer 
at the manger, acts with a perfect naturalness of 
unstudied art that recalls the religious drama of 
mediaeval times. 

Last of all come the Wise Men, striking and 
symbolic figures, approaching with measured pace, 
one by one, from different sides of the court, as it 
were by different paths which meet in Bethlehem 
a Zoroastrian, sumptuously clad, who offers his gold 
with a salutation spoken in Persian; a Buddhist 
monk in his orange robe who greets the Christ 
Child in Pali, as he sets the incense before him ; a 
Brahman, in the garb of his caste, who with the 
utterance of a Sanskrit verse lays his myrrh at the 
feet of the Infant Saviour. So shall they come, 
"from the east and from the west, from the north 
and from the south." 

The brief drama is ended. The Acharya comes 
forward at the close. "Friends," he says, "who 


have come hither at our invitation to witness our 
simple play of the Christ Child; we have tried to 
set before you, with crude and homely art, the most 
wonderful story in all the world the story of how 
God became a little Child." He shows how this 
wondrous way of Love's humility was the one sure 
way of gaining an entrance into the stubborn hearts 
of men, since none can resist the appeal of a little 

Angels, Wise Men, and shepherds gather round 
the central group of Joseph and Mary and the Holy 
Child, and join together with the choir in the 
singing of Adeste Fideles. As the last verse begins, 
all bend low in reverent homage before the rough 
cradle, and the hearts of many in that strangely 
assorted throng bend with them, profoundly stirred. 

Yea, Lord, we greet thee, 
Born this happy morning; 
Jesu, to thee be glory given ! 
Word of the Father, 
Now in flesh appearing ! 
O come, let us adore him, 
Christ the Lord ! 


Our readers may be interested to see the follow- 
ing translations of the Rising Prayers used by the 
Brothers (adapted from the Sanskrit Rising Prayers 
of the Hindus), and the Prayer of the Protection 
(adapted from the compline of the Jacobite Syrians 
in Travancore), which is the closing benediction of 
the day. 



May God, the Lord of night and day, grant us 
a prosperous dawn, and may all the angels of God 
protect us ! 

Lord Christ, all-adorable Guru, the nectar of 
whose teaching bringeth to naught the poison of 
the world ; at thy feet we fall in prostrate homage ! 

* * 

The Lord hath created us to be one with himself, 
who is Reality, Mind, Bliss; freed for ever from 
grief and fear. 



Lord Jesu Christ, Lord of the world, living' 
God ! At thy bidding we rise, and for the love of 
thee set forth on this day's pilgrimage. We know 
the right, but we cleave not to it; we know the 
wrong, but we turn not from it. 

O thou that dwellest in our hearts, grant us grace 
to live this day according to thy will. 



PEOPLE : Lord, grant thy blessing ! 

PRIEST (with the Cross uplifted, and facing the 
people) : May the Cross of the Son of God, who 
is mightier than all the hosts of Satan, and more 
glorious than all the angels of heaven, abide 
with us in our going out and our coming in ! 
By day and by night, at morning and at even- 
ing, at all times and in all places, may it protect 
and defend us ! From the wrath of evil men, 
from the assaults of evil spirits, from foes 
visible and invisible, from the snares of the 
devil, from all low passions that beguile the 
soul and body, may it guard, protect, and 
deliver us ! 

PEOPLE : Lord, grant thy blessing ! 

PRIEST : In the glorious, protecting, and life-giving 
Cross be your defence ! 


PEOPLE : Lord, grant thy blessing ! 

PRIEST : May the Lord of heaven and earth vouch- 
safe you his blessing ! May the Lord bless 
each one that hath partaken in this worship, 
and grant him forgiveness of his sins; and 
grant forgiveness to all the faithful departed. 

Then, turning towards the altar, he says : 

And, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, may 
these our weak and faltering prayers find 
acceptance at thine altar in heaven, now and 



H. B. SKINNER & Co., 
124/6 Denmark Hill. S.E. 5